A's expect sweet success from key relief pitchers
Oakland counting on Cook, Doolittle for big seasons
Published: Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 11:01 p.m.
PHOENIX — All those walk-off wins. All those pie-in-the-face celebrations.
The A's had 14 walk-off wins last season, plus one in the playoffs, and not one pitcher got a pie in the face.
“I was talking with Ryan (Cook). We both got our first big league saves last year, and there were no pies for us,” Sean Doolittle said Thursday in mock ire.
“What's a pitcher got to do to get a pie? What about us?”
The pies were reserved for the hitters.
Never mind that a pitcher getting the final out of a game is just as important.
Doolittle only had one save, but what a save it was. On July 21, pitching against the Yankees in Oakland and trying to protect a 2-1 lead, the left-hander
gave up a single to Alex Rodriguez, then struck out Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira and Andruw Jones.
Not bad for a one-time first baseman who had only 17 professional games on the mound before being promoted to Oakland.
The right-handed Cook had more experience, but starting the season with 23 consecutive scoreless innings went above and beyond what was expected.
He wound up being the only A's player on the American League all-star team, saved 14 games and had a 6-2 record.
While Cook and Doolittle didn't earn any pies, their contributions to the A's playoffs run were huge.
Manager Bob Melvin is looking for more of the same this year.
“These are guys you can bring into any situation in the seventh or eighth, or in the ninth, if needed,” Melvin said.
“They are equally good against left-handers or right-handers. It gives us a great deal of confidence knowing we have them out there.”
Cook said he owes much of his success to his dad, Chuck, who races and maintains racing cars.
“I expect a lot of myself because he expected a lot of me,” Cook said. “If I wasn't going to do it right, do it his way, I was a nuisance. I didn't want to be that.
So I became careful to get all the nuts and bolts right.”
Doolittle didn't start pitching until the end of the 2011 season, after a series of knee injuries limited him to 28 games in 2009 and kept him sidelined for the entire 2010 campaign.
Now he and Cook are a tough tandem on the field and buddies off it.
Cook even introduced Doolittle to sprint-car racing, and he thinks he has a convert.
“I think he fell in love with it,” Cook said.
Doolittle won't go that far, but he met with sprint racer Bryan Clauson, a childhood friend of Cook's, and Clauson explained the intricacies of the sport.
“It took me into a different world and out of my comfort zone,” Doolittle said. “All I knew about racing was NASCAR on X-Box. It was great. I could get into it.”
Having gone from a struggling minor league first baseman to left-handed setup ace, Doolittle seems not to mind getting out of his comfort zone.
But he would like some pie.
Closer Grant Balfour pitched a one-two-three sixth inning Thursday as the A's beat Cincinnati 10-9. Balfour, who is recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery, worked early to face big-league hitters. He motored through the sixth, retiring Devin Mesoraco, Derrick Robinson and Emmanuel Burris on nine pitches.
“I was really happy with the way I threw,” Balfour said after hitting 94 mph on the radar gun.
Opening day starter Brett Anderson was roughed up for six earned runs in 42/3 innings.
“The results weren't awesome, but I got in my pitches and I worked on some things,” said Anderson. “I threw some pitches I wouldn't normally throw in a regular season game, and some of them got hit.”
ATHLETICS 10, REDS 9
Derek Norris homered as the Oakland Athletics roughed up Johnny Cueto and beat the Cincinnati Reds.
Cueto allowed five runs on five hits and two walks in 1 2-3 inning.
Mark Prior, trying to make another comeback, pitched a scoreless inning for the Reds. He struck out one and hit a batter.
A's starter Brett Anderson pitched for the first time in a game since March 10. He had been out with a strained right trapezius. The left-hander missed most of last season while recovering from elbow surgery.
Todd Frazier and Derrick Robinson homered off Anderson.
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